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There's a reason Door County is known as "The Cape Cod of the Midwest" — with nearly 300 miles of shoreline punctuating Lake Michigan and Green Bay, Door County inspires comparisons to oceanic coasts. But the freshwater breeze, rolling lake waves, sandy beaches and dunes, and rocky outcroppings remind visitors just how unique the Door County shoreline is. As anyone who has stood on a shoreline here knows, magic is made where land meets water. Door County's distinct physical and atmospheric aura makes you feel as if you're in a distinct dimension — at once both familiar and new. Door County is part of a remarkable geological feature that is fondly referred to as the backbone of America. The Niagara Escarpment runs from east to west from New York state through southern Canada and the Great Lakes region, creating dramatic cliffs and ledges. It's responsible for the limestone rock that lies under the Door County soil as well as the picturesque views of the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. From the rocky shores on the eastern side of the peninsula to the sandy beaches on the west side — and all the marshlands, dunes and inland lakes in between — the Door County shoreline is so diverse you'll want to explore every inch of it! And don't forget to check out Washington Island's Schoolhouse Beach, which is one of just five smooth limestone beaches in the world. To get you started on exploring the Door Peninsula shoreline, here are a few examples of places in Door County that are stunning to see (listed in no particular order). Listed are some key features to take note of when visiting. These are just a small sampling of what types of environments and views can be seen along the Peninsula’s shoreline.
Location: Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek
Key Feature: From the lookout you can see that the trees grow almost right up to the waterline, which is common in many places in Door County. The trees are also growing at a steep incline. This is a great location to catch a Door County sunset and check out the stretch of shoreline that travels into Ephraim.
Location: 5360 Schauer Rd, Sturgeon Bay
Key Feature: A great place for photo ops, Cave Point is known for its limestone cliffs and underwater caves. Stand at the top and watch the water crash against the rocks or get up close and tour the cliffs and caves on a kayak tour.
Ellison Bay Bluff
Location: Ellison Bluff Rd, Ellison Bay
Key Feature: Take a walk down the wooden stairs and enjoy the view from the observation deck or take advantage of the wooden catwalk that extends over the edge of the bluff. See the shoreline below and the limestone cliffs from a new perspective. Another great location to catch a sunset.
Potawatomi State Park Tower
Location: 3740 Park Dr, Sturgeon Bay
Key Feature: Enjoy a day in the park and make sure to head over to the tower. The tower is 75 feet tall, which when added to the height of the bluff puts it 225 feet above Lake Michigan. Clear above the trees, the tower can offer panoramic views of the shoreline below as well as the rest of the park.
Location: W Cana Island Rd, Baileys Harbor
Key Feature: Make sure you show up at the right time to really enjoy this location. Like many other places in Door County, this section of shoreline changes and looks different depending on the water levels. Explore the dolomite bedrock beach here, when it isn’t covered by water, or watch the waves cover and uncover the rock croppings and imagine what it looks like in both states.
BONUS: Door Bluff Headlands
Location: 12900 Door Bluff Park Rd, Gills Rock
Key Feature: Follow along the unmarked trail carefully and come upon breaks in the trees that let you see the most northern you can get on the Green Bay side of the Peninsula. There is a bald outcropping that will give you an unobstructed view of the Bay as well as the shoreline below. Tread carefully though, there is no guard rail. Make your way (carefully) down to the water below and stand next to the towering bluffs that make up a lot of the Door County shoreline.
The recreational opportunities provided by such an expansive waterfront are numerous. In Door County, you never have to choose between land and water — instead, experience the best of both worlds. Learn more about the public parks, beaches and marinas that mark the margins of the peninsula and islands, as well as the huge array of outdoor recreational activities and attractions on our shorelines, by visiting the Discover page.
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